Recipes

Soy Sauce Chicken Wings

I’ve been craving my mom’s cooking. I made soy chicken wings with rice which I haven’t done in a while. You’d think I might need a recipe or at least a refresher on how to do it. It was satisfiying to recreate this dish from memory and have it turn out. I had run out of my soy sauce a couple of months ago and have had a hard time finding the kind I am use to, at the local grocery stores, so I wasn’t sure what would happen.

Here’s my list of ingredients for this meal.

  • Chicken wings and cutlets
  • Onions
  • Dark soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Brown sugar
  • Star anise or chinese 5 spice
  • Approximately 1/4 cup Water
  • Cornstarch
  • White or brown rice
In a wok or frying pan saute chopped onions until tender. Turn heat to medium high to high and add enough oil so that it coats the chicken as it is being tossed around. Do this until chicken is cooked and browning on the outside. If you are using thighs you can cover an lower the heat while they cook.  Add finely chopped ginger root and garlic.  Stir until you smell the aroma and pour in mixture of soy sauce, water, cornstarch and sugar. Add star anise if you wish but I ofter find the sauce is tasty enough. Stir until chicken is coated and simmer until liquid reduces and thickens slightly. Serve an top of a bowl of warm rice with some crunchy garnish such as chopped green onions or a handful of sprouts and you have yourself a mouth watering fun dinner.
PERSONAL GROWTH

More Than a Few Books on My Shelf

Books are a weakness of mine. I have always loved reading. I enjoyed it immensely growing up. I remember spending hours sprawled across my bed or tucked in the corner of the couch. I read all through the night on many occasions. I am sure my mom wasn’t fond of me sleeping until three in the afternoon to catch up on sleep but I don’t remember her ever discouraging me from reading my books. She always kept my bookshelves full of the stuff I loved, and as I grew supported my attraction to stories. I made my way through series like Nancy Drew and Little House on the Prarie. Reading was such an escape for me. It still is when I get a book that really grabs me.

The past few years have been full of false starts. I’ve picked up many books, read part way but have actually completed only a handful. These books sit on my shelf patiently waiting for another chance. E-books also wait quietly out of sight on my Kobo. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy them. I am just too distracted and often find that I don’t leave enough down time for myself and when I do I am usually so tired that I just want to sit mindlessly relaxing in front of the tv. I used to be such a crazy reader. I often found myself engrossed in a story, fact or fiction. Soon after I finished one I’d be into the next. So what’s happened?? I’m busy, but not so much that I shouldn’t be able to pick up a book.

There is so much talk and study about the effects of technology – our devices and social media, on our brains. You don’t have to read an article or watch a news story to see how involved we are with our phones. They are not just phones anymore. Our lives are so integrated with them that it is hard to let go and not be so reliant on it for everything. During the summer I made a conscious effort to not pick up my phone and browse aimlessly. when I went outside to relax on the porch or at the beach I left it inside or in my bag and brought out a book instead. And you know what? It worked. as I read more the material carried me and it wasn’t a struggle, much to my relief.

I read The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary by Andrew Westall, Unprocessed by Megan Kimble and Zero waste home by Bea Johnson. These books all had a purpose partly for research and interest but also they entertained. The fauna reminded me of Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall – women who deeply moved me and helped solidify my love of animals. It was set in Canada which brought it closer to home. A true story that I could tie and make connections to from my memory of the past. I was intrigued in when they made mention of some past event or name that I already knew. So it pulled me in when I picked up and began this book that had sat on my shelf waiting for its pages to be turned.

DECLUTTERING, Home

Clearing Frenzy

Jan 1st
Today I got rid of an old t-shirt, my husband an old t-shirt, and my daughter a stuffy. I’m bringing along my family on this venture of clearing out the excess. I can’t do it alone. If the past couple of years has shown me anything it’s that we have to work on this together and be on the same page, or at least simular. It’s discouraging when I’ve whittled a lot of my own closet out yet still trip over piles of toys, laundry and things to put away. I’ve gone through our kitchen appliances and tailored it to our cooking and eating habits. Looking at belongings and attempting to make decisions on stuff that isn’t mine is torture. It’s not mine to get rid of even if I think it should go.

I have devised this plan to modify our stuff that is hopefully painless for everyone changing patterns and overcoming our fear of letting go. So things need to go out once it is decided that it’s going. If it lingers it continues to take space and energy up. Out of site, out of mind and then move on.

With this in mind, the plan is to do this every day. One object is all that is asked. A “moving out bin”, is hanging out by the stairs. Hopefully, we can build and keep a momentum of ridding ourselves of all the extras and along the way develop an attitude of just buying things we need and not be frivolous or impulsive spenders.

Happy New Year & see you tomorrow with our stack of 3 things!

Jan 2nd

A few more things were added to the bin of “stuff to go” at the top of the stairs: a pretty but way to small Chinese style top, a cookbook we no longer use, a couple of Walt Disney CD books and a copy of The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary by Andrew Westoll.

Recipes

Congee (Juk) in the Instant Pot


Lately I have been making this soup in the pressure cooker and it turned out so good. It makes this tidy and quick soup the perfect meal when you’re wanting something warm and tasty.  If you’re interested in the stove top version go here.

Congee (Juk)


This is my ultimate comfort food!  Easy to make and I always have the ingredients – rice, water, chicken or beef, seasonings.
I loved all the meals my parents prepared growing up.  I sure had my favorite Chinese and western dishes alike.  My mom is a great cook and of the many, many things she has taught me, one of them is how to cook.  Growing up I watched her make tables full of various dishes to fill our bellies.
My father had dishes of his own and they are still some of my favorites.  Just thinking of them makes me salivate.  I love how the mind can conjure up flavors.
So here’s my instant pot version for congee/ juk:

  • Fill your pot with water until it is about 2/3rds full or to the about the 8 cup line.  Add chicken or turkey – whatever type of meat you desire that day. If you are making poultry use pieces with the bone in, for better flavor.  You just have to remove the bones from the soup after it has fully cooked.  Two chicken legs with the thighs work well. If you are using sliced beef add it at the end. If you are using fish make sure it is boneless and add it at the end. (You can also make plain juk/congee by omitting this part).
  • Add 1-1/2 cup of long grain rice. Do not use parboiled rice.
  • Add ginger and garlic if you wish. I prefer adding these minced in my bowl as seasoning.
  • Check the gasket on your lid to make sure it is properly in place before putting it on and in the lock position. Put the vent in the seal position and press soup button or manual for 35 min.
  • Walk away and let it do its thing!

I let it cool down normally to maximize the cooking time. With soups I find this is always the way to go to avoid sputtering from the vent. If you want it thicker you can press the off button and saute it for a bit to get the consistancy you like. I prefer mine a bit more brothier than my husband.  One of the best things about this soup is each being able to top each bowl off the way you like! So grab a hand full of radish sprouts, some fresh diced or grated ginder, a splash of Maggi sauce and a few turns of the pepper grinder! 

 

 

Recipes

Congee (Juk)

I have written out instructions here for the pressure cooker. I alternate between the two methods because sometimes nothing beats the stove top. Nostalgia I guess!

This is my ultimate comfort food! Easy to make and I always have the ingredients – rice, water, chicken or beef, seasonings.

I loved all the meals my parents prepared growing up. I sure had my favorite Chinese and western dishes alike. My mom is a great cook and of the many, many things she has taught me, one of them is how to cook. Growing up I watched her make tables full of various dishes to fill our bellies. My father had dishes of his own and they are still some of my favorites. Just thinking of them makes me salivate. I love how the mind can conjure up flavors. So here’s my version of a pot of Juk:

Fill your pot with water until it is about 2/3rds full. Add chicken or turkey – whatever type of meat you desire that day. If you are making chicken Juk I find using pieces with the bone in works best. You just have to remove the bones from the soup after it has fully cooked. If you are using sliced beef add it at the end. If you are using fish make sure it is boneless and add it at the end. (You can also make plain juk/congee by omitting this part.) Bring to a rolling boil.

– Add 1 cup rice.

– Once it comes to a boil turn the stove down to medium.

– Simmer for at least 1 hour or until it is the consistency you like. The rice grains will break thickening the broth. Everyone is different. I like mine more on the brothy side while M prefers his thicker like porridge.

– You can add water as the soup thickens.

Season your bowl with pepper and a drop of Maggi sauce, chopped green onions and finely chopped ginger root.

mmmm….yum

ESSENTIAL OILS, Lemon Essential Oil, Simple Switches, Zero waste

I Love Lemon

I love lemon. That’s all there is to it. For as long as I remember it has been my weakness. If there is lemon, in it I will come…probably.

Lemon in food has always been an exciting thing with tons of possibilities. Desserts are well known for their ability to make people salivate. The list of sweet treats is endless! I have always been partial to lemon squares myself. Then there is cooking with lemons … and my mouth is watering …

It has so many uses and If we look at its history and known properties we get the sense of how varied this simple citrus fruit can be. An Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Here are a couple of links that I found interesting and useful.

https://draxe.com/lemon-essential-oil-uses-benefits/

https://www.doterra.com/US/en/blog/spotlight-lemon-oil

I have been diffusing lemon essential oil in our diffuser for a refreshing air but also when someone in my house starts feeling a bit under the weather and needs a boost with their immune system. It has fended off or shortened a cold significantly many times around here. I will also pour hot mugs of water with freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey (making sure the honey is locally sourced).

My latest venture with lemon is in cleaning. I have replaced many of my chemical ridden solutions with safer ones. I feel better knowing that my family, including our dog, are not breathing in toxins that affect the bodies hormonal level in ways I don’t understand. I also clean more effective and frequently when I can breathe properly.

Another advantage to making this all-purposed solution is having fewer bottles around. I have streamlined my routine and made it more enjoyable, if you know what I mean. Cleaning is part of life and having it be a stress free thing can only be a good thing. I like knowing that I dont have to worry when my daughter uses it. Chipping in around the house is becoming more of a common thing as she grows up. I have been using lemon or lime essential oil with vinager for a while now but until recently I don’t think I was using enough. My last batch included approx 20 drops of lemon essential oil with 2 cups of vinager. I personally don’t add water.

Having a good sprayer makes all the difference! I had a mixture of spray bottles that I have collected over the years. they were all plastic though and if you are adding citrus oil it has to be glass or steel. The citrus breaks down the plastic. I transformed one of my larger mason jars with a spay lid that I got from a company that sells accessories that transforms Mason and Bernardin jars. It has a great spray which for me is important. A sloppy or drippy spray is a big source of aggravation. It has been a cleaning deal breaker occassions. Anyways, knowing how well they work I need to get a couple more.

One more thing…

Having a good stock of reusable wiping clothes is vital. I’ve done away with our paper towels for the most part. If you have enough cloths to last until the next laundry load you can easily grab a clean one when you need it. Even after rinsing it feels grungy to me to clean with the same cloth – depending on what it was used for.

Organizing

Working on Goals

This is the time of year that many of us reflect on our past and begin to think about the things we want to accomplish in the next. New Year’s resolutions are somewhat of a failed tradition, so this year I have decided to look at things a bit differently and instead reevaluate some of my existing goals. 

Today in my writing day. I need to set aside a time and for months it has been, “sometime during the week”. The thing is I let everything get in the way… I must do the dishes or the laundry, I need to pick up my daughter at school or I need to go grocery shopping. This is all true. It all needs to be done but not all by me and not right at this moment. Well, certain things do like meeting my daughter after school and appointments.  A friend pointed out to me though that it is a time management problem. She said it and I was embarrassed at first but then admitted to myself that she was right. I want to get better and I have been trying. I admit that I am an expert at procrastination. I have and always done it. I use planners and make lists but where can I improve?

I have to set a routine and realize it takes a while to stick. I have to remind myself to make an effort so that over time it will become a habit. The definition of a routine is:

Noun 1. a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.

Adjective 1. performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason.

It is a poor excuse to blame the world and everything around us. We all just have to make it work. It is too much energy to not be happy because you pushed aside doing what you love – I’m thinking of my writing and photography.

To simplify life this year – that is my goal. Granted, it is not new. I have been working on this one for a while now and have made some gains, but feel like a renewal of this resolution needs to make. Hence, I am making yet another list. So here is my plan, or goal if you will, to make life more fluid and hopefully fulfilling.

In no particular order these are my goals:

  1. Contentment with our space – getting rid of stuff, all the excess. I am really struggling with this one and I am not sure why. I have theories but it should not be so hard to get from here to there. It has been years of wanting to reclaim my space but I still am just scrapping that wall of excess. I thought maybe slow and steady was the way to go but maybe for me, it really is quick and painless. February 5th is Chinese New Year and so my goal is to have a lot of this place cleaned out before then. It gives a month and a half to just diligently follow a process of picking up an item and asking (Queue music), “Does it stay or does it go?”. Maybe I need some form of a support group to hold myself accountable. I am not fooling myself – it is a mental shift and a way of living and thinking that we have to live by. Ten years later we could be in the same boat if we don’t make ongoing daily changes.
  2. Simplify my cooking – cooking meals for myself and my family should be healthy and straightforward. I never have started the week with a menu but I feel that I need a plan a day or two ahead of time instead of going by the seat of my pants, cooking meals and what we eat can be simple and it usually is but it would be nice if I was a tiny bit more prepared on this one. Sometimes I feel like I am in and out of the kitchen all day making or getting food. And when family members are doing the same the kitchen and eating areas are in a constant state of disarray. What I need is a book or a list of my go-to meals that I can go through when I am stuck.
  3. Take care of myself  – eat well, exercise, meditate, etc.
  4. Photography and writing
  5. Delegate household responsibilities – It is a shared living space and respecting that is part of it. When it comes to maintaining a clean living space, everyone should take part. You are not doing any favours for your children if they don’t learn to recognize and live by this rule. Leave the bathroom the way it was when they went in. The same for the kitchen. Now, this is a bad one in this house and I grumble under my breath, sometimes aloud, about this. Pick my battles, right? This is one I put up with for years but with needing to set a good pattern for my daughter, I think this is a battle that needs be fought.
  6. Greening up/cleaner living – making those lifestyle changes that affect our environment, health and finances. For me, this is switching to reusables. Using less plastic and trying to lessen the amount of waste our household creates. This means critiquing the way I shop for food and other things such as clothes. It means this website and feeling the need to share these ideas, not for validation but for influence. I am also using essential oils to get rid of chemicals, replacing store-bought cleaners and replace some of the medicines we use such as cold and allergy remedies. Preventative measures. Aromatherapy is somewhat new for me. I’ve been exploring the possibilities of essential oils in a therapeutic sense.
  7. Create a routine – this goes back to where I started. I have to make an outline of my week and stick to it somewhat. Let that be the guide instead of the other way around. I am too flexible with my time and so when I shuffle my blocks of time around something gets pushed off the grid and either forgotten of the next time I come to it there is double or triple the amount of work to do. That is in part why I can never catch up. Something is always falling to the wayside that shouldn’t.
  8. A good weekly planner to make my days run more smoothly – writing down things has always been a thing with me. Whether is list scrawled on a back of a piece of mail or written neatly in a planner it helps me through my day. As well as keeping things organized there is a great satisfaction to crossing items off or looking at it by the end of the day and seeing what you accomplished.  I am a visual and kinetic learner, so it also imprints a virtual list in my mind when I physically write it down. This is why lists on my phone or the apps don’t work the same way. I need the actual action/sense or holding a pencil and paper. I have had a hard time finding a planner that works for me. I have tried many that left me dissatisfied with wasted columns and pages or layouts that just did not fit my lifestyle and actually distracted me more, instead of assisting me. I tried bullet journals, and this did not work for me either.  I journal a lot. Sometimes a short scribble or thought, other times it is a full out article.  So, what do I do?  I created my own planner.  It was a bit of work, in the beginning, to lay it all out, and I still fuss or tweak something occasionally, but it doesn’t waste my time and aggravate me when I am using it.  It is beneficial that I can make changes as needs evolve.

Recipes

I Made Chicken Noodle Soup

I woke up this morning in the dark. The power was out and I thought “Argh…this should be fun.”

Getting my daughter ready for school means getting her to eat an energy packed breakfast, packing her lunch, getting dressed and cleaned up for the day. It was actually kind of fun. She got to eat breakfast by flashlight while I packed her lunch box by candle light. She washed up with a pot of warm soapy water and all without complaint except wondering if the school was out too. That’s not really a complaint though.

We have been lucky with our power. When it is out, it should not be the end of all. Panic shouldn’t set in because the lights are out. It is quiet where our house is. I am surrounded by trees. Our neighbors are close enough to see, but far enough to have space. There are pros of living here. I love it. When the power is out it is super quiet. I become aware of the day to day sounds I’ve gotten so accustomed to. I don’t even notice until they are gone. The hum of the refrigerator and the furnace kicking in. The electric buzzes and clicks of the tv and computers. All the little led lights of this ‘n’ that device. When the power comes on it’s a whole mess of sound as everything comes back to life. Breath in….breath out.

The days are getting shorter and cooler. Our furnace is kicking in and we have already had a couple of fires in the wood stove to warm the floors.

I’m looking forward to uping our eating habits to be heathier for us and the world. I am looking forward to more soups and broths to be our every day norm. I want to keep moving my way towards things that are less processed and less packaged. When it comes to lunches that means no more cans of chicken nooodle soup. One of the things on the menu that she is almost always guaranteed to eat. I have been experimenting with different homemade ones to come up with a healthier, tasty family and ‘mykid’ approved version.

I have found one that works pretty well for my particular eater. The ingredients are simple.

  • Chicken (bone in)
  • Water
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • onion
  • Garlic
  • Egg noodles
  • Salt
  • Bay leaf

I used my electric pressure cooker and a blender for this. In the instant Pot, put every thing but the noodles they go in shortly before serving as they will keep cooking into a mush if put in too soon. Set for soup or 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves and chicken making sure to get any bones that have fallen off. The soup is actually pretty tasty as it is, but in this case I am blending it to make a nice smooth soup base. Use an emmersion blender or let it cool and put it in a counter top one. Add salt to taste.

Shred chicken off the bone and add it back into the broth. Transfer into portions that can be frozen or kept in the fridge for a few days.

In the morning I can pull out a portion and heat it up. Add egg noodles and let it simmer for a bit before putting in her thermos.

By doing this:

I have less cans to recycle.

I have a better tasting meal with no additives.

Bonus: My kid approved this for her lunches!

FOOD, Sprouting

My Sprout Grower

This is the sprouter that started it all.

 

About 5 years ago I picked up this little guy from Mississauga’s VegFest. I was intrigued with the notion of growing something other than herbs on my kitchen counter.  I don’t actually grow herbs, not for a lack of trying, but when it comes to growing things I’m really not all that patient. This is designed like a greenhouse to safely sprout in a day or two.  It is so much fun to watch how they progress and I see it a learning opportunity for my daughter to see how food can be grown without soil and anytime of the year.

20160731_150815_hdr~2829557177..jpg

I’m still using it even after being stood on and crushed a few years ago. By my then 4 year old. It just popped back when pushed  into shape.

Yes, I know it’s plastic and these days I am all about reducing the amount we use but I wasn’t thinking about it back then. This is one of those situations where the value of adding sprouts to my daily eating routine takes precedence.  The basket itself is stainless steel. There are many ways to sprout which I have since began exploring but this system is so simple,  efficient, and transportable that it grabbed and still holds my attention. My family is now part of a CSA program with a local company called Four Season Greens so we always have a consistent supply and variety. I still use my Sprout Grower in addition, but to make sure I have enough to make my salads and feed all of us I purchase a weekly supply.

That day I was nostalgic for when my mother made some bean sprouts as a kid. She didn’t do it often. I just have this vague memory her growing some soybean sprouts on the kitchen counter. I remember trying some and that wonderful crunchy mouthful of flavor that followed. I bought this new sprouter not knowing much about the benefits of it and micro-greens.  I was more interested in having a new addition to enhance our dishes and salads. The more I read and eat the more evident it becomes that we need to put nutrients back into our diet. We have over processed our food.

This is Tony’s site, the developer of this sprouter. It is chock full of links and information on sprouting and it’s benefits!

www.sproutgrowers.com